Malta has demanded the return of a fossilized giant shark tooth that Sir David Attenborough gave Prince George as a gift to mark their first meeting at Kensington Palace.
The young prince, seven, was pictured looking puzzled as he handled the fossilized tooth of an extinct Carcharocles megalodon – one of the most feared predators to ever swim in the seas.
Sir David said he found the 23 million year old tooth encrusted in soft limestone while on vacation in Malta in the late 1960s.
The country was a British colony until 1964 and the Queen was its head of state until 1974.
However, Maltese Culture Minister Jose Herrera said the tooth should be in a local museum and promised to ‘get the ball rolling’ to get it back.
Malta has demanded the return of a fossilized giant shark tooth that Sir David Attenborough gave to Prince George (left with the tooth) as a gift to mark their first meeting at Kensington Palace
Sir David presented his gift after attending a private screening – held inside the palace grounds – of A Life On Our Planet, his new environmental documentary. Socially distanced in the open air, The Duke of Cambridge and Sir David were offered director’s chairs with their names printed on the back – but in a change of plan they sat inside each other (pictured )
The tooth given to the prince once belonged to a megalodon (artistic rendering shown), an extinct species of giant shark that could grow up to 52 feet
Is fossil hunting illegal in Malta?
According to Malta’s Cultural Heritage Act 2002, paleontological finds – including fossils – are part of the country’s cultural heritage.
They are qualified as “movable or immovable object of geological importance”.
It is considered a crime to remove or search them without authorization.
In addition, Section 70 of the Maltese Cultural Heritage Act states that it is an offense to “receive or retain cultural property knowing that it has been unlawfully removed in Malta or illegally exported from any other country”.
If anyone breaks this law, they could face a fine of € 2,000 (£ 1,814), up to six years in prison, or both.
Prior to the 2002 Act, Malta’s cultural heritage was protected by the Antiquities Act 1925.
“There are objects which are important to Maltese natural heritage and which have ended up abroad and deserve to be recovered,” Herrera told The Times of Malta, without giving details of how he intended to recover the fossil.
If found in good condition, the teeth of a Carcharocles megalodon are highly regarded by fossil collectors.
This is especially true of teeth over five inches – a very rare find – which can be sold for several thousand dollars.
Sir David presented his gift after attending a private screening – held within the palace grounds – of A Life On Our Planet, his new environmental documentary.
Hunting for fossils in Malta is strictly regulated and their retrieval and excavation without authorization violates the country’s Cultural Heritage Act 2002.
All paleontological finds are considered a “movable or immovable object of geological significance” and form part of the country’s cultural heritage.
A Life on Our Planet offers a revealing and powerful first-hand account in which Sir David reflects both the defining moments in his life as a naturalist and the devastating changes he has witnessed.
Socially distanced in the open air, The Duke of Cambridge and Sir David were offered director chairs with their names printed on the back – but in a change of plan, they sat inside each other.
Sir David chatted with William, Kate and their three children George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis after the screening.
William interviewed Sir David at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last year, and during the discussion the broadcaster warned that humanity must act not to “wipe out part of the natural world”.
Sir David Attenborough gave Prince George a fossilized giant shark tooth to mark their first meeting at Kensington Palace, after discovering the young royal was a ‘big fan’
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also met the conservationist in September 2019 in Birkenhead (above), for the christening ceremony for the polar research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, the meeting appearing in the upcoming documentary from ITV, Prince William: A Planet For All of Us
WHAT WAS THE MEGALODON CARCHAROCLES AND WHY DID IT BECOME EXTINCT?
Jaws might have terrified you in the movies, but the iconic great white would have been eclipsed by the megalodon of Carcharocles, the largest shark in the history of the planet.
The giant creatures lived between 23 and 2.6 million years ago, and scientists are divided on how and why the species perished.
The predator grew to an incredible 18 meters in length and used its giant teeth, which could reach 18 cm (7.1 inches) to feed on small marine mammals.
In the past, climate change has generally been blamed for its demise, while some research has also suggested that the giant shark has become extinct because the diversity of its prey has declined and new predators have emerged as competitors.
The ancient shark has been described as a super predator, as it could swim at high speed and kill a wide variety of prey such as sea turtles and whales quickly in its strong jaws.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also met the conservationist in September 2019 in Birkenhead, for the christening ceremony of the polar research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, the meeting appearing in ITV’s upcoming documentary Prince William: A Planet For Us All.
Two images were released by the palace to mark the occasion, the first showing Sir David as he met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both 38, and their children.
Dressed in an elegant suit, the 94-year-old naturalist, who recently made headlines after joining Instagram, is seen at a safe distance from the family who are gathered around a bench in their gardens – with Kate resplendent in a cotton denim shirt dress, thought to be by Gabriela Hearst, costing £ 1,295.
Kate, who once again tailored her kids to her fashion choice, with the whole family wearing different shades of blue, recently revealed her kids were ‘massive fans’ of Sir David and were disappointed they couldn’t. meet the national treasure. while catching up with their parents for ITV documentary Prince William: A Planet For Us All.
In a new clip to promote the royal’s program – which shows his passion for the planet and looks for ways to restore the environment for the next generation – Prince William is seen hailing the broadcaster by saying, “Here’s a recognized face,” while Kate admits that George, Charlotte and Louis are disappointed not to be present.
The Duchess, who revealed on lockdown that her eldest son often watched David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, said: ‘The kids were very upset that we were coming to see you and they weren’t coming. They are big fans of yours.
With a shared passion for protecting the natural world, William and Sir David continue to support each other in their mission to tackle some of the greatest environmental challenges the planet faces.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment.